Week in Review: July 22, 2015

by Jenny Shore

Bahrain: Nabeel Rajab Pardoned

Nabeel Rajab has been released from jail after having been arrested on the basis of a tweet in which he criticized Bahrain for acting as an “ideological incubator” for jihadists. He was provided a royal pardon, and the state-run Bahrain News Agency ran the following statement: “His Majesty the King today issued a royal decree granting a special pardon to Nabeel Ahmed Abdul Rasul Rajab for health reasons.” At the time of his arrest, he had been charged with “insulting a public institution.”

Russia: Putin Signs Right to Be Forgotten into Law

On July 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Russia’s version of a right to be forgotten bill into law. The law will be put into practice on January 1, 2016. On that same date, he spoke at a youth IT-forum at the Territory of Meanings, calling for “minimal restrictions” on the Internet, and pointed to “anarchy and complete anonymity” as the biggest threats to the Internet.

For more information, check out Internet Monitor’s earlier coverage of the legislation’s trajectory here.

Syria: ISIS Bans Internet in Raqqa

ISIS, a group known for its social media savvy, plans to shut down private Internet access in the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa later this week. Leaflets were dropped warning ISPs they had four days to halt connections. As a result, Internet service will be accessible only from a small number of Internet cafes where ISIS has been known to conduct surveillance. According to activist Bashir al-Abed, ISIS’s aim may be “to stop activists . . . This would make it very difficult and very costly for us to find solutions to maintain communication with the outside.” It would also make it easier for ISIS to manage the activities and communications of non-Syrian fighters.

This is not the first time that Internet has been shut down for political reasons. Last month, Sarah Myers West explored the way in which internet shut downs can accompany state violence.

USA: President Obama Launches ConnectHome Initiative

President Obama has created a new initiative aimed at connecting over 275,000 low income homes to Internet access. In a speech unveiling the initiative, he said that “the Internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity” essential to participating in the 21st century economy. The initiative is intended to close the “homework gap” so that children can use the Internet at home to complete assignments. Internet access will be provided by way of partnerships with eight ISPs and collaboration from nonprofits, communities, and the private sector.

The Internet Monitor Week in Review is a weekly round-up of news about Internet content controls and online activity around the world.